Pipe smoking has sometimes been referred to as a gentleman's hobby. It certainly seems to be associated with the image of gentlemen's clubs of bygone days. People from ancient times have enjoyed the pleasant taste and smell of smoking pipes. Native Americans introduced pipe tobacco to European settlers in the 1600's but Asian and Middle Eastern cultures enjoyed pipes long before the custom spread to Europeans. Not only do pipe smokers value the tastes of different tobacco blends, they also enjoy the use of pipes made from a variety of materials. Meerschaum pipes are one of the most highly valued types.Meerschaum is a mineral called hydrated magnesium silicate that is found mainly in central Turkey. The name meerschaum is a German word meaning "sea foam". This is an apt description because the mineral is white and surprising lightweight. Meerschaum pipes absorb elements of pipe tobacco during smoking because they are very porous. Their color then gradually becomes deeper until it changes into a golden brown. Beautiful old meerschaum pipes are much sought after by collectors for this unique coloring. For those who wish to purchase their first meerschaum pipe, be sure it is actually carved out of one mineral block and not composed of meerschaum dust mixed with a binder. These pipes will not acquire that special coloration.When shopping for pipe tobacco, note that it is identified by blend names as well as brand names. The tobacco blends contain special pairings of different tobacco leaves to achieve various flavors. The Oriental leaves of Drama and Yenidje and Syrian latakia tobacco have spicy tastes and aromas. Virginia, Burley and Cavendish leaves are grown chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom. Other tobacco types are Turkish and Cigar leaf. The unique Perique leaves are cultivated only in St. James Parish in Louisiana. When harvested after the growing season the tobacco leaves are cured by air or sun. They may also be fire and flue cured. Sometimes flavors are added to the blends of leaved for additional enjoyment. Some add rum or whisky. Others add the fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry. Caramel, cocoa, vanilla or chocolate may be added for a sweeter blend.As with cigar smoking, pipe smoke is not inhaled. Rather, it held in the mouth to savor its flavors and sensations while the nicotine is absorbed through the nasal cavities. Pipes are lit with a match or Boiler flue a special pipe light. The match is struck and the sulphur on the tip allowed to burn off before lighting the tobacco. Lit pipes are usually held by the stem but sometimes by the bowl. Meerschaum pipes are gripped with a patch of chamois leather or held by the stem to prevent its color change from becoming uneven.